Duncan Grant (1885-1978, British)

Duncan Grant with his daughter and Judith Stephen 1922-1924

Duncan Grant with Judith Stephen and Angelica Bell with a kitten, at Charleston.

Duncan Grant (1885-1978, British) was a member of the Bloomsbury Group and designed textiles, pottery, theater sets and costumes as well as being a painter.

Grant grew up in India and Burma and was the grandson of Sir John Peter Grant and had little interest in his school studies except for art. Luckily, he received encouragement from his art teacher who was also his aunt Lady Strachey. Instead of joining the army as his father had wished, he took art lessons, attended the Westminster School of Art and also the Slade School.

Until 1910, his paintings were rather unremarkable. However, with the influence of French painting, Grant became one of the most advanced British artists of the time and was one of the first British artists to produce completely abstract paintings through the influence of African sculpture. The 20’s and 30’s offered Grant the height of his popularity. After World War II, interest in his works waned.  

In 1935, Grant was commissioned to create works for the Main Lounge on the RMS Queen Mary then being built in Scotland. Once completed in 1936, Cunard Line directors rejected his works and had them removed. Grant commented,

“I was not only to paint some large murals to go over the fireplaces, but arrange for the carpets, curtains, textiles, all of which were to be chosen or designed by me. After my initial designs had been passed by the committee I worked on the actual designs for four months. I was then told the committee objected to the scale of the figures on the panels. I consented to alter these, and although it entailed considerable changes, I got a written assurance that I should not be asked to make further alterations. I carried on, and from that time my work was seen constantly by the Company’s (Cunard’s) representative.

When it was all ready I sent the panels to the ship to put the finishing touches to them when hanging. A few days later I received a visit from the Company’s man, who told me that the Chairman had, on his own authority, turned down the panels, refusing to give any reason.

From then on, nothing went right. My carpet designs were rejected and my textiles were not required. The whole thing had taken me about a year….. I never got any reason for the rejection of my work. The company simply said they were not suitable, paid my fee, and that was that.”

Grant’s love of cats is undeniable. The following sketches of cats are included in a sketch book dedicated to Vanessa Bell, his companion and mother of his child.

Duncan Grant, cat art


Duncan Grant, Sketch of Cat 2


The sketches are reminiscent of his 1932 painting ‘Opussyquinusque’ which hangs in the Charleston Attic House in the dining room, near Edward Wolfe’s 1918 work ‘Still Life with Omega Cat’.


The Cat, Opussyquinusque Duncan Grant - 1932

The Cat, Opussyquinusque 1932


Duncan Grant, cats in art


Duncan Grant, Cat 2 

Duncan Grant, Seated Cat, 1953

Seated Cat, 1953


Duncan Grant cat art

Girl at the Piano, 1940


 Duncan Grant’s remains are buried beside Vanessa Bell’s in the churchyard of St. Peter’s Church, West Firle, East Sussex.


Want to know more about the cat in literature, art and history? Then Revered and Reviled is the book for  you. Now available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle formats. 

Revered and Reviled: A Complete History of the Domestic Cat, cat history, cats



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  1. Sounds like an Actual artist`s life. Philistines all around.

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